Interesting and amusing thread. Personally I consider Google to be one of the most evil enterprises on the planet. They have even knocked M$ off that throne. Word among the tech community is that Google has had the US gov't as an investor since early days - in the early days of search it was quite effective to just track those who searched for bomb-making instructions. Today Google combines information on us from multiple sources, which in turn can be combined with credit card and even health
data (those HIPAA waivers you must sign to get health care
undo much of the privacy protection). You're worried about NASA tracking your phone
calls? Google (including Skype remember) knows one hell of a lot more. And it is available to anyone with a bit of money
to spend. Your chances of getting screwed by the US gov't because of NSA spying is negligible; the chances of getting screwed by commercial
data collection are immense.
I have long emphasized security
, as I was using a lot of public wifi
APs while cruising. It is a losing battle. I do use a VPN tunnel, to a private (family) server in the US, so that helps for local eavesdroppers. I use the Perspectives add-on to check the quality of certificates (to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks). My email
server is in the family
. I have used Macs since the Mac Plus (mid-80s) so have missed out on most of the threats. But all that (and a lot more) just serves to keep out the small, opportunistic bottom-feeders. The large criminal enterprises are becoming very effective at compromising their targets. But still no one knows us like Google.
Using No-Script and Ghostery I have always blocked Google Analytics. Google used to keep their services separate such that blocking Analytics didn't block Map or their other APIs - no more. I have increasingly run into sites that won't work without Analytics enabled. One website I recently visited refused to let me see the site until I disabled my ad-blocker or paid a fee/extortion.
Perhaps the most shocking experience has been owning an Android tablet - the granular permissions allow the user to see what individual programs are asking for. Phone serial
numbers/phone numbers/contacts/accounts/browser history/IP address/wifi connection - you name it, they suck it in. I'm not just talking about Google here (but they are the worst) - many of the "free" programs do it. While there are programs that can block, scramble, or otherwise undo the damage, increasingly programs don't work unless the data collection works. Since Android is made by Google the OS itself is part of the problem. The only solution starts with rooting the phone, installing new firmware (ROM) that is open-source, refusing to install or use any Google program or service
(including Chrome), and then do the other security measures. The manufacturers and networks do everything they can to prevent this. It is a losing battle, but I am not ready to give up just yet.
What really makes me smile is American resistance to an identification card. It isn't needed to know everything about you. It has been more than a decade since cell phones were mandated to have GPS
inside (for the government), and identification to buy a SIM card or phone is required. You are not anonymous.